Analysis of 'The Cockroach' by Kevin Halligan
1) This sonnet is an extended metaphor of the poet’s life, which is revealed as he observes an insignificant insect, a cockroach closely. Halligan uses the word 'giant' to establish the extended metaphor and disclose how closely he was observing the creature.
2) He describes, with the use of kinaesthetic imagery, the movement of the cockroach along a familiar path on the floor. This observance is an extension of early human life and infancy; when everything around is familiar, secure and safe.
3) The poet goes on to observe the insect that appears so satisfied to be on familiar ground. This corresponds to childhood when an individual feels safe and secure amidst routine and known settings.
4) Halligan observes the cockroach move along a path well known to the insect, something that reminds one of a child that finds solace and satisfaction in familiar and routine things.
5) In the octave itself he brings in, with the help of kinaesthetic imagery, a sudden shift in the pace of the poem. He describes the cockroach suddenly moving along a crooked path. The metaphorical connotation corresponds to adolescence, when a person likes to break through what is familiar and take risks.
6) The Poet observes the insect moving to and from the rusty table leg. The tactile imagery adds to the metaphorical connotation of adolescence, risk taking and experimentation.
7) Once again using kinaesthetic imagery he describes the insect flipping on its back as if to scratch its wings. The metaphorical inference refers to adulthood and how man succumbs to pressure, stress and responsibility.
8) To the poet, the insect seems as if it is suffering a mild heart attack. This line prepares the reader for the sestet that follows. It reveals the cockroach being presented as an extended metaphor for man.
9) In the sestet the author describes a very restless insect. The kinaesthetic imagery indicates how adults react to responsibility and stress.
10) Halligan then sees the cockroach climbing onto an open shelf. The open shelf is a metaphor for the human mind that keeps contemplating as a person ages.
11) Using enjambment, the poet describes a sudden cessation of activity. He observes the cockroach looking very uncertain about where to go. This corresponds with philosophical thoughts that cross the human mind after a certain age, about life and its mission.
12) Very typical of human behaviour, the poet draws a parallel between the insect and the human being by describing the cockroach’s movement and probable thoughts about it's current situation being the result of some past deed.
13) Halligan addresses the stereotypical need for man to blame circumstances and situations on some previous action. He says “ I don’t know” which is typical of how a man behaves in the later years of life, pretending not to know how he has landed up in particular situation.
14) As in every sonnet, the last line makes the metaphorical inference of the entire poem very clear. Halligan reveals that the cockroach reminded him of his own life.